By Thomas Gerbasi
ďWeíre in for a bit of stir up in the heavyweights over the next few years,Ē said British heavyweight Tyson Fury while in the closing stages of his training camp in Ottawa for Saturdayís matchup with Steve Cunningham, and if youíve been following the division for the last couple years, you can guess who Fury believes will be leading the charge.
The funny thing is, heís probably right. And that has little to do with the way he fights, though at 20-0 with 14 KOs, he seems to have that part down, even if heís still a bit raw around the edges. But what Manchesterís Fury has done better that anyone since countryman David Haye is bring a spark of excitement to a division thatís sorely needed it. And you get the impression that heís only getting warmed up.
ďThereís nobody whoís come, grabbed the division by the balls, and kicked it on its head,Ē he said. ďAnd thatís where I come in. Iím not all talk; you get these British hype jobs and these European fighters and they canít really fight. Letís be real. Iím a realist. If I couldnít fight, Iíd say I canít fight. If Steve Cunningham gives me a good fight then I canít fight and Iím not gonna be the super champion that Iím saying Iím gonna be. I like to be real, I donít want to con anybody and I can fight. I can fight southpaw, orthodox, in close, outwards, upside down Ė whatever you want to do, I can do. I throw combinations, I punch hard, and Iím an exciting fighter. So here we are, the savior of the heavyweight division.Ē
At 24, Fury has the brash confidence of youth, even if his body of work doesnít yet live up to such claims. Thatís not to say heís been fed a steady diet of easy foes. Heís battled British vet John McDermott twice, unbeatens Rich Power, Marcelo Nascimento, Neven Pajkic, and Dereck Chisora, while also handing defeats to Martin Rogan and Kevin Johnson. Thatís a resume few heavyweights in the modern era hold after 20 fights, and itís why he has the confidence to travel across the pond to headline this weekendís show at The Theater at Madison Square Garden against Cunningham.
ďItís all in the name.Ē he said. ďIím a traveler, so traveling is what I do. I donít care if itís Africa, Indonesia, America, wherever it is, Iíll go there to fight because Iím an on the road fighter. I donít care where it is; Iíll go to the backyard and fight them. Itís never been my style to stay in one position and just keep boxing easy people in my hometown because I donít believe stars are born like that. If you look at the days of Muhammad Ali, he traveled all the way around the world to fight. He didnít just stay where he was from and fight in his own country. I have 20 straight wins and Iím already 24 years old, so why not now? Whatís the big wait? Most of these European fighters just stick in their own town and they build a big record on bums and just take easy fights. But when they do step up and go into the deep water, they always drown. Iíve seen it time and time again, and Iíve always said coming through that I donít want to be another British hype job. I want to be able to fight. Iíve had tough fights coming up from my pro debut to my 20th fight, and I havenít just fought bums. I fought some decent fighters along the way Ė some tall ones, short ones, power punchers, southpaws, unorthodox fighters, so Iíve got a good grounding and Iím really ready to take on whoever they put in front of me. Iím not one of them guys whoís gonna freeze and be fazed by the moment. Itís only me and my opponent in the ring on the night. Itís only a man with a pair of gloves on. In our culture, we fight for four hours outside with no gloves on, so getting punched in the face with a glove on is a luxury.Ē
In the traveler (or Gypsy) culture, fighting is as much a part of everyday life as anything else is, and Fury was exposed to such bare knuckle brawling early on.
ďIt goes on every single day,Ē he said. ďPeople meet up for bare knuckle prizefights, two teams put money together from both ends, and they fight. No biting, no eye gouging, no kicking. Just old London prize ring rules until the best man wins. Itís Ďtil one man says heís had enough and then they shake hands and itís finished.Ē
Fury didnít partake in such affairs though, saving his fisticuffs for the ring.
ďI always kept out of it,Ē he said. ďI could have easily been involved in stuff like that, but I just kept to my boxing. Itís much easier.Ē
Maybe to a six-foot-nine, 248 pounder, one who was pretty much destined for the sport from the time he was born and given the name Tyson. And since then, heís marched to the beat of his own drum, whether itís been getting fined by the British Boxing Board of Control for inappropriate Tweets directed at fellow fighters David Price and Tony Bellew, leaving the friendly confines of home to face Cunningham in America, or giving up his British and Commonwealth titles to fight Rogan for the Irish title.
ďI believe fighters need to have their own brains, and if you havenít got your own brain, youíre gonna be conned and robbed,Ē he said. ďNot that itís all about that, but thereís a lot of sharks out there in boxing and you gotta have your wits about you if you want to succeed. Itís more than just a sport, itís a business as well, and every man has to make his own decisions. A man who lets other men make decisions for him, heís in a sad state. You gotta make your own decisions and youíve got to do your own thing.† Itís your life, you gotta live it. One life, enjoy it.Ē
So is that attitude in the blood?
ďMy father was a professional boxer before me,Ē said Fury. ďAll my uncles and cousins are fighters, so we have a long line of fighting history. Itís just one of those things. Iíve always done my own thing and I never really relied on anybody. If I want to do something I just get up and do it. Iím not one of them people who think about things too much. If I want to go to the other side of the world, I wonít plan it out and say if I woulda, shoulda, coulda. Iíll go get a plane ticket, go there, see it, and come back. Where everyone else has been thinking Ďyeah, I wonder what itíll be like,í Iíve been there, come back, saw it and everything. Thatís just me. A lot of people donít do it, but I always jump in first and think about the consequences later. Itís got me in trouble a bit (Laughs), so sometimes I gotta sit back and relax and take it easy. But thatís just my style.Ē
Itís a welcome one, and it should make him a hit in the United States this week, even if only because there has been precious little to get excited about in the heavyweight division Stateside in the last few years. And while Fury will hold a substantial physical edge over Cunningham on Saturday, the former cruiserweight has the experience and boxing wisdom to take Fury into places heís never been before. Not that Fury would agree with such an assessment. Quite the contrary, as heís a firm believer that size matters.
ďIíve got no disrespect for Steve, and itís not personal,Ē he said. ďItís strictly business for me. But when I look at Steve, I see a man whoís standing in front of glory and stardom. And do I let him take that away from me, feeding my family and going on to be successful and winning world titles, or do I seize the opportunity and smash his face in? Well, itís the latter. Iím gonna smash his face in. I donít care what heís gonna do, who he brings with him in his corner, and how many game plans heís got Ė he canít beat Tyson Fury. Iím the man of the moment. Thereís not a heavyweight on the planet can beat me, so Steve Cunningham hasnít got a prayer. Heís a former cruiserweight, heís a good, fast boxer, and heís got some good combinations and a good trainer. But we have divisions for reasons, and there are big men and small men. Heís a ripped up 200 pounds, but when I hit him, itís gonna go right through him. When a big man hits a little man, itís good night, curtains. And thatís my opinion on whatís going to happen. As soon as I land flush on Steve Cunningham, heís going bye bye.Ē
With a win, it would put Fury into an IBF title elimination bout with Bulgariaís Kubrat Pulev. The prize at the end of the rainbow should he beat Cunningham and Pulev? A shot at Wladimir Klitschko. As US Olympic gymnast McKayla Maroney would smirk, ďnot impressed.Ē
ďI know the Klitschkos have been successful for the past ten years and they speak 25 different languages and theyíre in great shape, but who wants to be a Klitschko?Ē asks Fury. ďPeople donít grow up thinking Ďyeah, I want to be like a Klitschko.í Iím named after Mike Tyson. My name is Tyson, so he must have influenced my father. I donít know many people who are named Wladimir because of Wladimir or Vitali because of Vitali. Because you donít grow up wanting to be like them. But you did grow up wanting to be like Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield, and all these other guys. And thatís what I aim to do; I aim to bring the glory days back to heavyweight boxing. Itís been dull for a while. Youíve got these European fighters that are just all jab and grab and theyíre just not exciting. People are sick of being bored to death for 12 rounds, and thereís no seizing the opportunity anywhere in it. Itís like Ďif I can knock a guy out in two rounds, Iíll take him ten just in case he throws a hook back.í People are sick of that.Ē
They probably wonít get sick of Tyson Fury anytime soon, with even the ones hating him continuing to tune in to see him get knocked out. But if you can take one thing away from the endless quotes by Fury and say this is why you should pay attention to him, use this one:
ďThis is heavyweight boxing, and it only takes one punch, but if Iím gonna take that punch, Iím gonna take it trying to win.Ē
Thatís the difference.